Table Rock State Park – Branson, Missouri…

Our friends, Mel and Debbie, started the tradition of making pancakes one morning each time we RV together. Our kids love this tradition!

Everybody enjoyed Debbie’s pancakes and Mel’s sausage the morning after we played mini golf!

After breakfast, the guys played bean bag toss while the girls talked and cheered on the boys.

That afternoon, we drove over to Table Rock State Park.

We parked at the marina, and we walked the Lakeshore Trail around Table Rock Lake.

It was an easy, paved trail. The weather was nice, and we had pretty views all around.

Of course, when our kids saw rocks by the lake, they wanted to skip stones for awhile. So, we did.

Then we continued on our walk.

Mel taught the boys about army ambushes. Then, they snuck off into the woods and ambushed the girls.

There were screams, squeals and lots of laughs. After that, our little girls attempted ambushes every few minutes. Eventually, we got tired of the screams and requested no more ambushing. Ha.

It was a beautiful fall day, a fun walk with friends and another great memory made!

Reunited with friends – Branson, Missouri…

After Arkansas, we headed to Branson, Missouri. We could hardly wait to get there and meet up with our friends, Mel and Debbie. We just love RVing with them!

We spent the first evening just hanging out with them, catching up on life. They are like a 3rd set of grandparents to our kids. We were all happy, happy to be with them and their dogs, Paisley and Paxton.

We have several girls who are scared of dogs and get very nervous around dogs. All of our kids have warmed up to and love Paisley and Paxton, though.

The second day in Branson, we went to play putt-putt golf. We all love mini golf.

We broke up into three groups and started putting.

Our older kids are getting to the point they can beat us some now. We have fun and encourage each other, but each of us try our best to stomp the rest. Ha.

There were two different courses at this place. Apparently the boys chose the easy course and the girls the hard. I made a 5 on a couple holes. It was no joke!

We had lots of laughing, happy dancing and fun!

That evening we had hot dogs and salad, and we enjoyed the fall weather.

Traveling is so much fun. RVing is a blast. Meeting up with friends on the road is the best, though!

Crater of Diamonds State Park – Murfreesboro, Arkansas…

The day I found out I was COVID-free, we drove from Hot Springs to Crater of Diamonds State Park.

We picked up a couple buckets, cricket cages to use as sifters and hand shovels from Walmart. And we paid $82.50 for tickets to dig. I felt like we needed to find a diamond to recover those costs. Haha!

Did you know that one to two diamonds are found at Crater of Diamonds every single day? Typically small diamonds, less than a karat, are found. Though, a few weeks ago, a man found the second largest diamond ever found there. It was 9 karats.

We dug, and we dug…and we dug. It was hot. I still didn’t feel well. But we were excited to try to find diamonds nonetheless.

After a couple hours of digging, most of us could bare the heat no more. We went to get our finds checked out. We found everything from sandstone to lava rock to jasper to quartz…but no diamonds.

We did enjoy looking! It was like a big treasure hunt. Ryan felt sure our daughter, Treasure, would find a diamond or point one of us in the right direction. We would love to visit Crater of Diamonds again in the future. We’ll add a couple big shovels, go on a cooler day, wear sunscreen and take water next time. I recommend trying this at least once. Who knows – you may be like the guy who was shocked when he was told he found a 9 karat diamond!

Double birthdays…

Yesterday we celebrated Ryan’s birthday and today we celebrated Cherish’s birthday!

Ryan was so excited when he thought about getting those tiny convenience store donuts for his birthday, so that’s what we got. Ha! We had those for breakfast. We gave him cards and gifts. Then, we drove a couple hours away to look at an RV we’ve been eyeing online for a couple months. It’s a 5th wheel toy hauler with two bathrooms. We loved it and are hoping to upgrade to the extra space once we sell our current RV, which we listed for sale today. We have absolutely loved our RV and think it suited us perfectly for our first year on the road! We are looking forward to turning a toy hauler garage into the ultimate bunk room for our 8 girls now, though! After looking at the RV, we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings. And Ryan rounded out the night with ice cream.

Today, we started the day off celebrating Cherish’s 11th birthday with her request of a poptart stack.

Cherish opened gifts, and she was especially excited to receive an MP3 player.

I asked her if she wanted to go anywhere for her birthday or to just hang around the RV. She preferred to stay at the RV. We go so much with traveling that sometimes it’s special just to be at home!

Cherish listened to lots of music, she did art hub and played gaga ball with her siblings.

This evening we went to Panera Bread for dinner. We used to eat at Panera Bread pretty often, but the more kids we had, the more expensive it got and the harder it got to find seating. We had not been in over a year, so Cherish was really craving their creamy tomato soup. She enjoyed it and we all enjoyed it! We ended the day with reading her what each of us wrote in her journal.

Happy 11th birthday, Cherish! 💕

Cherish, you are a bright light to our family and in this world. You carry compassion, empathy and love everywhere you go. You are gentle, loving and kind, but also, spunky, funny and fun. Those make for a great combination! I love your laugh and smile. You are such a good friend to each of your siblings. People come to you to talk about their problems or worries. You are there to listen and care. You are a natural musician. I love hearing you on the keyboard. You are a good game player and athlete. You are great with fashion and styling. All the girls come to you to do their hair. Over the years, you’ve become the family hairstylist. I love having conversations with you, playing games with you and giving you big ‘ole cuddly hugs. You are a beautiful and precious daughter. I am so glad you are my girl! I love you so very much! 💖

A COVID test in Hot Springs, Arkansas…

When we left my parents’ house in Texas, we headed to Hot Springs, AR. I remember visiting Hot Springs as a child with my family. It is such a pretty and neat place!

A couple days before we left Texas, I got a horrible sore throat and bad congestion. Mercy was congested as well, and she had a fever. We were specifically careful about not being around many people prior to visiting my parents because I did not want to pick up COVID germs and spread them to my parents. I was happy to get out of their house in case we had COVID.

The morning after arriving in Arkansas, I went to an urgent care clinic and got tested for COVID. Thankfully, the doctor prescribed me a z pack in case I had a sinus infection. I’d heard getting tested for COVID is awful. It wasn’t bad at all for me, just slightly uncomfortable.

We just hung around our RV for a couple days until I got my test results. We went for walks around our beautiful RV park, Catherine’s Landing, and avoided contact with other people.

I was thrilled when I got a call from a nurse two days after being tested letting me know that my results came back negative. I still felt crummy, but I didn’t have to worry near as much about passing it along to others. And I didn’t have to worry about the germs I left for my parents. Of course, the bad cold did start spreading through most of our big family.

So, rather than doing much in Hot Springs, we mainly relaxed at or around the RV.

Our kids enjoyed riding scooters and ripstiks. It was the perfect park with perfect weather for riding. Jubilee taught herself to ride a ripstik, and she was pretty excited to show off her new skill.

One afternoon we drove around Hot Springs to see the beauty of the area, and we stopped to soak in some great views.

Even though we were sick and didn’t do much, we still really enjoyed our time in Hot Springs!

A quick pass through Texas…

A couple weeks ago, we traveled from New Mexico through Texas. We made a much needed trip to our storage unit. We left some stuff there and picked up other stuff we needed. Then, we headed to Lolli and Pop’s.

We had all our homeschool curriculum sent to my parents’ house. Our kids were so excited to look through their new curriculum and books. We are starting school a little later than normal this year, but that it the beauty of homeschool – flexibility in scheduling.

We were all very happy to see Lolli & Pop, my sister and her family! We celebrated a slew of birthdays.

Lolli and Pop gave Rhythm a violin for his 13th birthday. Rhythm is so excited, as he has been wanting to learn to play the violin.

Our kids have so much fun with their cousins. They play, play and play nonstop when they are together.

We decided to stay at my parents’ a little longer than we’d originally planned so that Ryan could do the plumbing for their new pool. Ryan is a master plumber and has done plumbing for years, though this was his first time plumbing pool equipment.

It was both terrifying and awesome watching a fiberglass pool being lowered into a hole in the ground. This was great, real-life homeschool!

My dad oversaw the whole project and enjoyed doing most of the digging and tractor work. I was happy to see him so energetic and doing so well after overcoming many health issues in the past several years.

Lolli made us her famous gumbo, which is a favorite for most all of us. And Mercy and Treasure got to help bake cookies, which they loved. Our little girls soaked up as much Lolli lap time as they could, and all our kids enjoyed watching Peppa Pig with Pop each evening.

We love visiting my parents, and we were happy to get some time with them. We will be so ready to see all our other family and friends when we are back in December!

Celebrating River’s 4th birthday…

Today is River’s 4th birthday!

We started the morning with our typical birthday traditions.

River went with her daddy to select donuts. We made her a donut stack with 4 candles on top, sung to her and she blew out her candles.

River enjoyed her white donut with coconut shreds, which she called sparkles, and her pink donut with sprinkles.

After breakfast, River opened gifts and spent the rest of the morning playing with new toys.

When I asked River what she wanted to do for her birthday, she said she wanted to get donuts and Chick-fil-A and to wear a fancy dress. So that’s just what she did. Cherish even made River a pretty bracelet with her name, and Mercy let her borrow some clip-on earrings.

River enjoyed nuggets and fries with a special drink for dinner. Then we went for a walk and took turns telling River things we like about her. When we returned to the RV, we read River what we’d written her in her journal.

We ended the day with River in our bed eating a chocolate chip cookie and watching Peppa Pig.

River said she had a great day and that she especially loved the donuts and presents.

Happy 4th birthday, River Grace! 💕

River, you have the sweetest smile and a precious personality. And, I love the cute little freckles on your cheeks. You are mostly quiet in public, but we get to experience your joy and giggles. You love doing funny things and when others do something funny. You erupt in laughter often. You are best buds with both Treasure and Bravely. You flip flop back and forth playing with each. You like cuddling on Mommy or Daddy’s lap. You enjoy building LEGO towers and houses. You’ve been liking to color and draw pictures lately. You love music and singing. You often ask me to play certain songs for you and to turn up the volume. One of your favorite things to do is to play card or board games. No one should underestimate you at your age because you can stomp an adult in a game of Battle. You do not like physical pain. It seems to scare you and easily sends you into a bout of breath-holding, sometimes to the point of passing out. When you get hurt, one will hear me close-by saying, “Breathe! Breathe, River!” Thankfully, most of the time now, you do take a breath and avoid fainting. At night, you love climbing into bed with me and Bravely. We sing a slew of fun songs with hand motions. It brings a big smile to your face and lots of giggles. I adore you, River, and I am so very happy I get to be your mommy. You are a special little girl. I love you so very much! 💗

Great Sand Dunes National Park – Mosca, Colorado…

When we left Colorado Springs, we headed south to an RV park in Alamosa, Colorado.

Alamosa is just next door to the Great Sand Dunes. Nine months ago we visited White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. We had such a fun time sledding down the sand dunes, we were excited to experience it once again!

White Sands National Monument

We drove about 30 minutes from Alamosa to Great Sand Dunes Oasis. There, we rented eight sand sleds. We got four small and four large along with some wax. Each sled cost $20 to rent for the day. They were very nice wooden sleds.

After picking up the sleds, we drove a few more miles and arrived at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

We ate a quick lunch in the van. Then we made a long trek on foot across a flat sandy area until we reached the dunes. It was like walking a dry sandy beach. Each step was hard, and it was hot outside. We got a little taste of what it’d be like walking through a desert.

Walking up the dunes was very difficult. The sand slipped underneath our feet as we walked. It took time, energy and effort each dune we chose to climb.

But then we got to sled down, and that made the hard hikes up all worth it! The wooden sleds we rented worked so well, better than the plastic discs we used at White Sands. We waxed the boards before each sled down, and that helped the sleds go very fast.

We had so much fun! We climbed and slid, climbed and slid, climbed and slid.

Every time we took Bravely down, as soon as we hit the bottom she’d excitedly yell, “I wanna do it again!”

After hours of fun, eventually we felt we couldn’t climb a dune one more time. Then we started what felt like an even longer trek back across the sand toward our van. We emptied our shoes and brushed ourselves off the best we could. Head to toe, even stuck in teeth, we were covered in sand! We returned our boards to Oasis, and we headed back to the RV park for showers. We got cleaned up, and we even managed to keep the sand out of the RV.

If you ever have the chance to sand sled, it’s worth the effort. The Great Sand Dunes were beautiful to see and an absolute blast to sled!